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Conflicts, but not the one you were expecting – Nigel Jones on Britain in 1914 at Swindon Festival of Literature

7 May

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It’s 100 years, near enough, since Europe was plunged into the most terrible war the world has ever seen, so you’d expect a ‘thinking festival’ like Swindon Festival of Literature to thoroughly explore the subject, which it is – as part of the official Swindon in the Great War commemorations.

Historian Nigel Jones’ discussion around his book Peace and War: Britain in 1914 is the first of three on the topic – the entrée to Kate Adie’s main course of the legacy of women in the Great War (May 12), with dessert coming in the form of Richard Van Emden on boy soldiers (May 15).

It’s fitting that Jones goes first, because his book isn’t really about the war at all, it’s about all the other stuff that was happening at the time – events that were making headlines before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo; before Germany’s blank cheque assurance to Austria, or Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia; and before the Rape of Belgium.

Jones’ book reminds us there were three conflicts troubling the British government in the run-up to the Great War, and none of them had very much at all to do with European politics. Continue reading